Business As Usual This Offseason

Indianapolis has stuck to its usual approach to free agency during the offseason: sign your own key players, let others test the market while opting to stay on the sidelines when it comes to high-priced veteran free agents from other teams.

The Colts went into the free-agency period with two primary objectives: first, keep cornerback Kelvin Hayden (unrestricted) in the fold; and secondly, do as much as they possibly could in order to bring back center Jeff Saturday (unrestricted).

Those goals have been accomplished.

Other free agents, such as weak-side linebacker Freddy Keiaho (not tendered) and punter Hunter Smith (unrestricted), will likely not be re-signed.

Defensive tackle/end Darrell Reid (unrestricted), meanwhile, has already been signed by the Denver Broncos.

Then there is the group that includes unrestricted free-agent running back Dominic Rhodes, linebacker Tyjuan Hagler, cornerback Keiwan Ratliff and defensive end Josh Thomas.

They will be allowed to see what other teams are offering but could return to Indianapolis if the price is right.

As for taking a long look at other team's free agents, the Colts will wait and see what's available after the draft has been completed.

The offseason move, though, that may give the best glimpse into the Colts' draft strategy was the release of veteran wide receiver Marvin Harrison.

Even before the team decided to part ways with Harrison, team president Bill Polian had broached the idea of selecting a wide receiver with the 29th overall pick of the first round.

This year's draft appears to be deep at the position, so a quality player will most likely be available for the Colts to take. There are other areas of concern as well, such as defensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback, running back and — if Smith is indeed gone — a punter.

TEAM NEEDS
1. Wide receiver: Get younger, become more athletic and find a game-changer. Even with the loss of Marvin Harrison, the Colts still have Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez to work with. But adding another dependable big-play receiver to the mix will certainly help recharge the Indianapolis offense.
2. Defensive tackle: Stopping the run on a consistent basis has been the Colts' defensive Achilles' heel for the past several seasons. Getting a bigger interior defensive lineman who is physical at the point of attack but is still athletic and can run is important this year. Finding a starter is not the issue as Indianapolis likes to rotate its defensive linemen during the course of a game.
3. Linebacker: While the starting positions appear to be set with Gary Brackett, Clint Session and Philip Wheeler, finding quality depth at all three linebacking slots will be key. Losing Freddy Keiaho and probably Tyjuan Hagler leaves some additional room to add some additional help. The Colts have traditionally liked smaller linebackers who can run and make plays all over the field.

INSIDE THE WAR ROOM
It's always hard to predict with any degree of certainty what Colts president Bill Polian is thinking when it comes to the draft. Polian has been known to downplay his draft intentions.

But receivers like Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey, Rutgers' Kenny Britt or North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks would seem to fit what Indianapolis is looking for in the first round. Florida's Percy Harvin would be another possibility, although he's not as polished as other receivers.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES:
— QB Peyton Manning pocketed another $4,483 for his 2008 performance. The check is part of the NFL's performance-based pay program. The program, which allots $3.25 million to each team, compensates players based on a comparison of their playing time and annual pay. Every player who stepped on the field for at least one play gets a check.

The largest checks for Colts players went to OG Charlie Johnson ($201,309), S Antoine Bethea ($195,706) and S Melvin Bullitt ($186,432) and C/OG Jamey Richard ($181,596). Also, TE Gijon Robinson ($158,882), DT Keyunta Dawson ($158,080), LB Clint Session ($134,605) and LB Freddy Keiaho ($134,203), DT Eric Foster ($133,877) and CB Tim Jennings ($118,984). DE Dwight Freeney earned $9,828 while S Bob Sanders picked up an additional $3,751. Backup OT Corey Hilliard, meanwhile, received a check for $947.

"I knew when it came time for them to cut the check, mine would be pretty good because of how much I played," Jennings said. "I played more than a lot of people expected (he had 13 starts) because of injuries to Kelvin (Hayden) and Marlin (Jackson)."

Jacob Tamme and Tom Santi were rookie tight ends in 2008. Injuries kept both of them from making a major impact in the Colts' offensive game plan. That may be about to change as Indianapolis begins preparations for the 2009 campaign.

"Both guys are capable," Caldwell said. "Neither one of them has played an extensive amount at this point in time. We do anticipate their role will probably increase in the next year."

— Getting C Jeff Saturday back in the fold was a key off-season move for the Colts. Saturday signed a three-year deal with the team and will continue to provide some much needed knowledge to some of the team's young offensive linemen.

"Really, he has been a cornerstone of the offensive line for a number of years. He certainly has been a very productive player. He has been a guy who week in and week out has set a great tone, overall, for our interior. But more than that, the intangibles he brings in terms of locker room, in terms of experience, in terms of his effort and his day-in, day-out professionalism — all of those things bring so much to the table that we're indeed happy to have him back. He certainly is of great value to our team," Caldwell said.

— The first year head coach has yet to have a sit down meeting with his entire roster. That is expected to happen relatively soon.

"First of all, it's not like I haven't thought about it, nor is it like I haven't worked on a number of the areas I'm going to discuss. So, yeah, I've thought about it, but I haven't agonized over it, because the great majority of them know me," Caldwell said. "Maybe they don't know me in this particular capacity, but it's not going to be anything they're not accustomed to in dealing with me and there won't be any huge surprises, I don't think."

— Lucas Oil Stadium — the Colts' home stadium — along with Fenway Park in Boston, Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., TD Banknorth Garden in Boston and the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia have been selected as nominees in the Sports Facility of the Year category for the 2009 Sports Business Awards presented by Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal.

— Colts DE Dwight Freeney is an excellent limo driver incognito. Just ask two women who flew to Los Angeles to discuss their gold-digging natures with self-help guru Dr. Phil. The guests didn't realize the man in the limo driver outfit was a famous football player with a $76 million contract.

Freeney asked about going out with them after Dr. Phil's nationally syndicated television show, which aired recently. One woman said it defeated the purpose when looking for a rich man to go to a club with a man. The other asked if Freeney wanted to be a bodyguard.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The position he plays requires that he is able to do quite a few things, not only as a line-of-scrimmage blocker, but also releasing from the line of scrimmage and being an effective pass receiver in that position. We split him out so he is a detached receiver. We put him in the backfield, so that only is he responsible for protection but he's also running routes out of the backfield. He does a lot of different things for us and he has very diverse skills and ability. We try to showcase those as much as we possibly can. He's a great weapon for our offense." — Colts coach Jim Caldwell on the importance of TE Dallas Clark.


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